Caring for your mental health has never been more important than it is right now, in a year where most people have experienced multiple psychological traumas at once. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our daily lives in immeasurable ways all year long, and the recent news that much of the UK was going into tier 4 due to a new, faster-spreading strain of the coronavirus — in affect cancelling most people's Christmas plans for 2020 — is sure to leave many feeling alone, sad, overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, or some mix of all of those emotions.
Thankfully, there are plenty of free mental health services and resources you can utilise today, if you need the extra support. There are a few different ways you can seek support, both for ongoing mental health support and for urgent care.
The list of mental health services ahead are a compilation of crisis helplines, live-chat services, and helpful online resources; however, if you're seeking long-term support, teletherapy is the way to go. Adrienne Meier, PhD, and other therapists POPSUGAR has spoken to, do not consider crisis hotline services to be the same thing as teletherapy. Teletherapy is therapy sessions administered through phone calls or video sessions from a licensed professional. The same goes for messaging with a therapist on an app. It's therapeutic, sure, and can absolutely be beneficial, but it's not considered therapy in their eyes.
"If someone calls the hotline, we can provide them with support and listen and provide them with concrete coping skills to assist them in whatever mental health issue or crisis they're experiencing," Dr. Meier said. "It can still be really helpful to whoever's calling in. It's just a different type of help than we would perhaps offer in an ongoing therapy relationship." Licensed mental health counsellor Sheina Schochet agreed. "It's considered more of a one-time therapeutic consult as opposed to consistent therapy because you're not getting the same therapist [each time] necessarily, and it doesn't follow a consistent treatment plan."
Ahead, see 10 free mental health resources that are available in the UK right now.
The NHS Urgent Mental Health Helpline
The NHS Urgent Mental Health Helpline service is a short, online quiz that helps you find the best mental health support in your area.
Every Mind Matters
Every Mind Matters is the NHS's mental health initiative, which offers long-term support to those who need it. The first step is filling out the five-question quiz on the website, and from there, you'll have a telephone consultation to determine the type of help you need. For example, some people may receive online resources for cognitive behavioural therapy to help combat anxiety, and others will receive a number of appointments with a clinical psychologist via video calls. Because this is a service offered by the NHS, it is extremely comprehensive and reliable. If you require urgent support, there are a number of recommendations on the Every Mind Matters website.
A mental health service designed to specifically support members of the LGBTQ+ community, Mind Out has an online instant messaging service that is completely anonymous and 100 percent judgement-free. Mind Out also offers peer mentoring programs and support groups to help you speak to people who have been exactly where you are.
ChildLine is a service for under 19-year-olds in the UK, offering a plethora of digital resources, including a "calm zone" and a detailed explanation of domestic violence, plus a step-by-step on creating a safety plan in these situations. Additionally, ChildLine has a portal for reporting underage nude photos, if you're under 18 years old and learn that someone has shared a naked photo of you online, so they can be removed. You will be fully supported through this process by ChildLine.
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM)
CALM is a general mental health service that's endorsed on the NHS's Every Mind Matters website, so you can count on the fact that the information it provides is extremely reliable and up to date. The hotline and web-chat services are open between 5 p.m. and midnight every single day of the year, but if you require urgent help outside these hours, CALM suggests calling the Samaritans or 999. According to the website, CALM is experiencing a higher volume of calls and web chats than usual, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so there might be longer waits to speak to a professional. However, the CALM website also has an in-built search engine where you can search for support services that pertain to a specific concern.
Samaritans is one of the leading mental health services in the UK for people requiring advice. There are many ways to seek help with Samaritans, including by phone, email, handwritten letter (for nonurgent assistance), and the self-help app. The app is a fully self-guided process, where you can track your symptoms, create a safety plan to employ in times of crisis, and there is a catalogue of techniques so you can try to help self-manage your mental health at home. Due to the coronavirus outbreak in the UK, Samaritans have temporarily stopped their face-to-face appointments.
YoungMinds Crisis Messenger
YoungMinds is a support service with young people and their parents in mind. The YoungMinds Crisis Messenger is a free text service designed to provide emotional support for young people, whether it's for a specific problem like bullying, coping with grief, or suicidal thoughts, or if you've noticed that you're not quite feeling like yourself.
Mind is an online and telephone resource that doesn't offer counselling but rather provides a safe space to anonymously discuss your mental health concerns. Mind will also help you find reliable information on where you can get help and discuss possible treatment options for long-term mental health solutions.
A free mental health service for people under 25 years old, The Mix offers a range of short-term support options for getting help without ever leaving your home. Unlike many of the other resources mentioned above, The Mix has a telephone counselling option for under 25s and a one-to-one online chat service for 10- to 18-year-olds. Additionally, there is a crisis management text service that is free and available 24 hours per day, seven days a week.
Victim Support is a free service for children, young people, and their parents to help support children who've been affected by crime. In addition to a catalogue of written resources, there is also a virtual courtroom to help your child understand what to expect if they are going to be a witness in court; plus, there's an interactive "Journey to Justice" tool that educates young people on what happens when a crime is reported and how decisions are made within the justice system. The Victim Support website also has information about local support teams, national phone helplines, and a live chat.
— Additional reporting by Samantha Brodsky